Recruiting the wrong type of people

Company Culture - Excellence

There are so much resources availalble now for entrepreneurs but I still get it wrong a lot of the times! Nothing beats experience I guess; however, that’s the expensive route.

Without a doubt, the most expensive mistake I keep on repeating is recruiting the wrong people. Time after time. How can I get out of this spiral?

Let me explain to you my process of recruiting at Gulf Broadcast:

  1. Advertising in industry sites
  2. Sift and filter the CVs
  3. Check portfolios
  4. Connect with interesting prospective employees
  5. Ask for a referee list
  6. Conduct an initial Skype/In-Person interview
    1. If possible, invite other staff members to sit in so we can cross-check each other
  7. Contact referees and ask them pointed questions and most are good enough to respond (see below)
  8. Call referees and double check details
  9. Conduct a second interview and drill down into the details
  10. Take a cool-off reflection period of 3 or 4 days and consider whether chemistry and potential exist in the person being interviewed
  11. Conduct final interview and pose any concerns
  12. Double check responses if anything warrants that with referees
  13. Negotiate salary and benefits
  14. Send out the legal documents
    1. Offer Letter
    2. Confidentiality Agreement
    3. Employment Contract
    4. Employee Handbook
  15. Reach agreement and sign documents
  16. Initiate induction process (documented in our Employee Handbook)
  17. Start mentoring and on-boarding process
  18. Start producing

Recruiting reference checklist:

  1. Could you briefly describe your relationship with ___________?
  2. When did you work together and in what capacity was ____ working?
  3. How long did ____ stay in the job?
  4. Would you evaluate ___ as a good team player?
  5. What is the best thing you remember about ___?
  6. The worst?
  7. Would you hire her/work with ___ again?
  8. If ___ left the job, why did ____ leave?
  9. What would you evaluate as ___ strengths?
  10.  ___weaknesses?
  11. What is his general competence level? Does ___ catch on to what is required quickly?
  12. What is the level of his creativity not only in the art of creating films, but also problem solving and dealing with people?
  13. What was __ attitude to work? Was there any issue in working within office hours, attitude to call-outs and working outside of the regular office hours?
  14. How would you evaluate ___ relationship skills with the clients?
  15. Would you like to comment on anything else?
  16. How highly would you recommend her for being our producer and director? (score from 1 worst – 10 best)?

You would think that with this careful process, I’d be able to limit the “bad apples” before they hit our office. Right? Well maybe I do, especially when you consider that it’s not just my opinion that is taken into consideration when we employ people.

But no.

To be fair to myself. The “bad apples” in almost every case aren’t discovered immediately on employment. In most cases, the enthusiasm of a new employee starting is electric and everyone is affected by it, but, reflecting on the situation as I type this (who said blogging is not therapeutic?) they manifest themselves a bit later, from a few months, to even over a few years.

Let me analyse:

The ones that get weeded out after a few months are almost always sales people. Although they are mentored by me personally with sincerity, those who don’t survive with us are those who do not achieve their sales quota. Some, unfortunately don’t sell a single fils before they are cut out and bid farewell to a hopefully more fulfilling future elsewhere. A lot of those, for some reason, become disgruntled employees and  flip the coin to try their luck in court. This has become such a regular occurrence that we started to add a legal contingency fund in our annual budgets, if they naively go into gambling, we’re determined to be more than ready with our royal flush. Unfortunately this attitude is much more prevalent with Bahraini employees.

The technical and creative employees are easier to deal with. It’s very easy to find out their capabilities within the first week of their landing. If they have the right chemistry, we heavily invest in them to bring them to our standard. We continue to monitor their output and eek out the best we can out of them and help, guide and mentor them to a better state. We’ve seen some employees really shine. A lot started with just technical capabilities and low self esteem, low belief in their creativity and talent and I nurtured them to be superstars by the time they moved on. If the chemistry isn’t there, I cut the losses short and wish them luck in their next position and off they go.

The fact remains that every time I go through this recruiting process, I get exhausted. Running the marathon is nothing to on-boarding new staff. This is emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s also hard for me not to take employee failures personally. Whenever we had to release them for whatever reason, I feel betrayed. Maybe because of the level of passion and time I invest in them. I guess this is one thing I have to learn not to do. I should learn not to take things so personally and treat them as “just” employees. Hard, but doable. It might require the installation of a “layer” between me and them, something I do not cherish. And this is not me. I’m an “all in” kind of person.

Going back to the problem, if I can call it that, I’ve got to find a way to employ successful sales people. Sales people who authentically feel the responsibility bestowed on them, and who have the deep rooted need to succeed and revel in the challenge. Looking back, it feels to me that a lot of them were not motivated by success, but by how much secure salaries they can draw. They were averse to installing a performance-based pay system. They wanted a fat basic salary, and little or no commission. Maybe this is the insight into what I should be looking for!

The best I’ve employed were motivated first by how they can use our products and services to contribute to a larger cause, rather than the money they potentially can make off the sale. In some cases, in time, some succumb to getting as much as fast as possible. That’s when the problem with their character manifests itself and the writing gets clearly written on the wall counting down to their departure. Invariably, their sales suffer and almost stop. It gets easier to see through them and their motives; thus, lose that important trust they create with clients. I need a better radar to see this faster and release them before they damage not just their careers but also our own reputation. I need to find the right language and communication method to reset them and their expectations and remind them why they got involved in this business in the first place.

So what’s the solution? How can I stop the time wasting and energy sapping process of on recruiting unfit employees?

I don’t have the answer and I would love to hear your input into this.

What I can conclude with, is something a wise man once told me: “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Thank you Mr Redha Faraj. Although I do have metrics and KPIs that every position has to live by, the mistake I have done in the past, and must correct going forward, is that these KPIs aren’t methodically adhered to. What happens, I think, is that over time I get lulled into a sense of comfortable trust. That trust, ultimately, time after time, gets abused. Therefore what I shall do going forward is document all agreements, expectations and processes and hold people responsible to their KPIs.

What else can I do to get out of this cycle? What are your experiences, rather than advice?


  1. Evan Rudowski

    I ask each candidate to take a DiSC personality profile and I discuss with them the results; it provides insight into their characteristics and the potential positive and negative manifestations of those characteristics, and provides a framework for discussing them in advance. Plus if the candidate proves defensive about the profile analysis (as it’s meant to be non-judgmental) it’s an early warning signal.

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  2. DebbieT

    As a recruiter in a previous life, I heartily recommend using the Disc profiles. They are an excellent tool to use in recruiting, making great matches where the employee has the greatest chance to be successful in a very “natural” way. An example of using them: people with an extremely high “s” enjoy consistency and steadiness. Placing them in a position that requires extreme flexibility and adaptation is a recipe for failure.

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      Thank you DebbieT. I’ll put this in effect immediately. We’re in the process of on-boarding three new recruits. Although the contract is signed with two of them, it would be good to understand what makes them “tick”. That will provide invaluable insight into their “why” and allow me to find out better ways in integrating them into the team.

  3. petercliff1

    And from a psychotherapist’s point of view, (and because I would apply this to myself), what’s the repeat flaw in you that allows this to happen, choosing repeatedly the same type of person and where does that flaw come from in your own life? Solve that and you will make different choices. (Not meant to be hard as it sounds, only helpful. I would ask myself the same over repeated “not so good” relationship choices!)

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      I’ve been giving this particular thought a lot of time. I haven’t gotten far other than recognising that my personality values “trust” above all else. I’ve read a book that is helping me possibly understand this; The Why Engine which confirms that trait in its classification….

  4. exclamation mark

    Don’t you have a 3 to 6 month probation period in the contract to avoid the legal issues?

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